Mr David Gibson-Watt: Is the hon. Member saying there was no such fury when improvement grants were made under the previous Administration?
Mr David Gibson-Watt: By leave, I will speak again. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) opened this debate in his customary way and probed carefully into the problems of Welsh housing. I shall address myself to most of those questions. I was a little confused with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan). He started by commending me for panache, and that was the very first time that...
Mr David Gibson-Watt: If the hon. Member will allow me to get on with my speech, I shall do my best to explain that. There are large old houses which fall short of modern amenities and attractive environment. I am aware of the legal problems, to some of which the hon. Gentleman has referred. Some authorities have difficulty in getting labour to improve houses to within the yardstick levels. I realise that this is...
Mr David Gibson-Watt: Each of the seven boards in Wales will have a chairman and at least six other members chosen from the rent assessment panel. There will be no full-time appointments. Fees, depending upon membership status, will be paid for each sitting. The method of operation is a matter for the chairman to decide in consultation with the panel president.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I am sure the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not going into the legal complexities of his second point. However, I must point out that if the council house tenant disagrees with the council the right of appeal is to the rent assessment panel.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: It is not my understanding that they will meet in public but, as I have already said, there is the question of an appeal against a rent suggested by the council concerned.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: The hon. Gentleman raises matters of detail which will certainly be taken fully into consideration by rent assessment panels. He will be aware that one-third of the current membership of the rent assessment panels was appointed by the Labour Government.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I am satisfied that adequate financial backing will be available. However, detailed working arrangements are at present being considered by the Welsh Hospital Board. My right hon. and learned Friend does not intend to make a statement.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I fully understand my hon. Friend's concern. I do not think it can be said that the Bevan Report under-estimated the difficulties, but it is the board's intention that six beds will be required for this unit. The reorganisation of existing services to provide these facilities has caused the delay. I shall keep my hon. Friend informed.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: Information for the 12 months ending mid-October 1972 is now being obtained from the annual farm rent inquiry conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The results will be published in April 1973.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: These are two totally different matters. The rise in agricultural rents in 1967–68 was 6·3 per cent. In 1970–71 they rose by 5·8 per cent. Where a farm is let to a sitting tenant the rent can be increased only by agreement between the landlord and the tenant, and in the event of a dispute there is a statutory provision for settlement by arbitration, as the hon. Gentleman is aware.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: Information on how much has actually been spent is not available. However, schemes to the value of £3·1 million have been approved and grants totalling £2·6 million authorised.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter. The progress of the scheme reflects a great deal of credit on Government policies in this direction. The scheme, which was conceived to make a quick impact, has been an outstanding success. I shall consider the representations that have been made that the scheme should be extended.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I recognise that because of its success many local authorities in Wales wish to see this scheme extended. I shall consider these representations; but I cannot go beyond that now.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: Yes. The whole point of putting a terminal date on the scheme was to encourage rapid action. In the Cardiff City Council area, 34 schemes costing £84,000 have been approved with the grant of £63,000.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: No, Sir. These facilities are currently provided through the accident unit at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and the out-patient clinics at the Amy Evans Hospital. It is too early to forecast the development of full outpatient facilities at Llandough.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I cannot accept what my hon. Friend says. I understand that the hospital board is pressing on with its programmes as best it may.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: In the light of the building of phase 1 of the Gurnos District Hospital planned to be finished in 1975, the Welsh Hospital Board is at present consulting locally on the future organisation of hospitals in the Merthyr and Aberdare Hospital Management Committee area.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman expresses. The hospital board has lately produced a pamphlet explaining its intentions. The future of these hospitals will be determined only after the fullest public consultation.
Mr David Gibson-Watt: I expect that expenditure by local authorities in 1973–74 will be of the order of £2·4 million. This will be more than twice as much as the annual expenditure in 1969–70 and 1970–71.